The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius)

Although I am writing this up as a new release post, I have already noticed that The Artist has already climbed to number 178 in the IMDB Top 250. Two birds with one stone – nice.

Anyway, I am probably already the fourth or fifth person to tell you to go and see this film. That’s right; I’m not going to bother stringing out what I think of this film for a few paragraphs. I loved it, and I am going to tell you why.

The plot itself is nothing hugely original – in fact, it’s very similar to the plot of A Star Is Born. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, one of the biggest silent movie stars in the world, and a ridiculously charming and handsome son of a bitch. His audiences love him, as well as his dog co-star. His wife seems a little up-tight, but life isn’t perfect – even in LA.

Then a chance encounter with Peppy Miller (an absolutely radiant Bérénice Bejo)- a young woman who dreams of becoming an actress – leads to Valentin giving her a helping hand into the world of show business. Soon she is becoming a star in her own right, while Valentin’s career crumbles with the advent of the ‘talkies’.

James Cromwell brings a beautiful dignity to Clifton, Valentin’s aide, and John Goodman revels in his role as a Hollywood big-shot producer. Uggie the dog is an absolute scene-stealer as well – and it pleases me so much to see an animal perform in such and old-school way without a drop of CGI in sight. This film is beautifully shot, and zips along at a fair old pace that meant I didn’t check the time one. I also shed a tear more than once.

Do, do, do believe the hype!

Oh yeah, and it’s silent, black and white, and filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Apparently this has caused some morons with the brain capacity of plankton to demand refunds. I will happily give another £10 to each of these idiots never to darken their local multiplex ever again. Without wishing to sound pretentious, elitist, or snobby – cinema doesn’t want, or need you. It is because Hollywood feels that it needs to aim films at these omnicretins that we end of with trash like Transformers, or needless remakes of excellent foreign-language films because these cunts can’t read.

By the same token, I really hope that some of the smug self-congratulatory arses who were present in the showing I went to actually use this as an opportunity to discover more silent cinema classics. I’ll be honest; I am not a silent cinema buff by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve probably only seen 10-15 of them, and I have convinced myself that I won’t like Chaplin or Keaton. The Artist made me laugh, gasp, and cry – and I am annoyed at myself for being so closed off. Sadly, some of the comments I have seen on Twitter and Facebook suggest that a lot of people went to see this for the novelty factor, and judged their enjoyment of it thus. It reminds me of the Susan Boyle phenomenon, and how people patronised her by basically patting her on the head for being a bit ugly, weird, and still being able to hold a tune. Well, I worry that people’s enjoyment of this film is with similar caveats – “bless this little film – it made me laugh and it didn’t even need any words!”

Then again, who am I to tell anyone how and why they should enjoy their films. Ultimately this is a victory for clever, independent film-making, and more importantly for the little cinemas and arts centres who rely on a crossover hit like this every few years to keep going, and to subsidise the rest of their other excellent, although overlooked programming.

I realise I haven’t said much about the actual film. I think that’s because I would struggle to add anything new to everything currently being written about this Oscar favourite. I am content to be the fourth or fifth person to tell you that you MUST see this film.

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